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Selectmen Vote Down Expanded Scope for Audit Committee

The Wayland Board of Selectmen were split on the decision, but a majority voted against expanding the Audit Committee's responsibilities to include looking at the schools' revolving accounts.

Wayland's Board of Selectmen Monday night voted 3-2 against expanding the purview of the newly formed Audit Committee to include oversight of an audit of Wayland Public Schools fee-based programs accounts.

The vote came after several residents spoke in support of the expansion during the selectmen's public comment segment and more than 200 signatures were presented to selectmen on a petition requesting that expanded role.

In January, selectmen voted to create a new audit committee with members appointed by selectmen, the Finance Committee and the School Committee.

The new committee's charge is "to advise the Board of Selectmen, Finance Committee and town management including the town administrator, finance director/town accountant and town treasurer with respect to the town’s internal auditing, financial systems and internal controls, and independent annual audit." 

Just week's after first convening the committee, however, the issue of that committee's role in overseeing an audit of Wayland Public Schools revolving accounts has come up.

The accounts hold monies from activity fees and other fees collected over the course of several years and have been highly scrutinized following a review by the Abrahams Group. The state auditor's office recently declined to do an audit of those accounts after a Town Meeting vote mandated that an audit from that department be requested.

Following the state auditor's decision, the School Committee voted to request that the Audit Committee be involved, though it is also in the process of selecting an independent auditor to conduct an audit.

Resident Donna Bouchard presented selectmen with the petition featuring more than 200 signatures, saying that "The Office of the State Auditor did not even understand what was being asked of them by Town Meeting," and that the complexity of the issue necessitated that it be carefully examined.

"The oversight of this audit should be conducted by the best," Bouchard said, stating that more than $2 million was expended from eight accounts outside of the town treasurer's control and a thorough look needed to be taken of the accounts in question.

Shawn Kinney, a member of the School Committee who spoke on his own behalf Monday night, wondered why School Committee members were involved in naming members to the Audit Committee if that committee wasn't permitted under its charge to examine school accounts.

"We are one organization here," Kinney said, questioning why town accounts would be considered differently from school accounts. "Why would the School Committee do that [vote on audit committee members] if the town side and the school side were separate?

"Change the charter of the Audit Committee so they can conduct an audit of the schools,” Kinney urged, reiterating that the School Committee had requested such involvement.

But about three hours later when selectmen took up the issue for a vote, the majority disagreed.

"This particular situation is regarding accounts under the schools’ management," Selectmen Steve Correia said. "I agree that our audit function is town-wide and does include the schools, but this particular situation, these particular accounts are a school issue."

Selectmen Joe Nolan agreed that an audit of the accounts was necessary, but stated that the audit needed to be conducted by an independent firm and not the town's Audit Committee.

Doug Leard, however, ultimately voted to allow the Audit Committee to become involved.

“When I ran for office I said that, if nothing else, I wanted to get these issues behind us," said Leard, who won a seat on the Board of Selectmen in April. "The fact that the School Committee is asking us and the Audit Committee is there and willing to take the job … revise the charge and get this behind us."

Selectmen Ed Collins, also elected to the Board of Selectmen in April, agreed with Leard.

“[The School Committee has] asked us to appoint this group to carry out this audit," Collins said. "We’ve got an audit committee that says, 'We welcome the task.'"

The final vote had Collins and Leard voting to expand the Audit Committee charge, while Nolan, Correia and Chairman John Bladon voted against it for the 3-2 vote.

Editor's Note: Wayland Patch was present at the meeting throughout the public comment segment (and until about 9 p.m. Monday night); however, quotes and information on the selectmen's discussion and vote of the issue were gathered and reported from the WayCam broadcast of the meeting. Patch will always inform readers if meeting coverage is being conducted via videos, broadcasts or meeting minutes. Unless otherwise noted, readers can be assured that coverages provided by Wayland Patch are completed with information a reporter gathered while physically present at the event. If you have questions about this practice, please email brooklyn.lowery@patch.com.

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